Find Posts By Topic

A new face around the OIRA office…

 Yara Marouf, External Affairs Intern

Hello! I am so excited to have recently joined the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA). As the new OIRA External Affairs Intern, I primarily work to directly support the Ethnic Media Program.

I feel very humbled to be working with a group of people who are so dedicated and determined to ensure an equitable and welcoming place for all Seattle immigrant and refugee residents. As the daughter of two refugees, I have personally experienced the struggles and adversities that refugee and immigrant families face. My family moved to the United States to provide a safe and better life for their children. Even though I was born here and feel very privileged for that reason, I still recognize that too many people do not have the same opportunities as native born Americans due to various unique systemic and institutional barriers for immigrant and refugee communities. 

For example, while volunteering, I have talked with migrants who have traveled to the U.S. to receive adequate healthcare and resources. Basic items that some may take for granted, such as over-the-counter medications, feminine hygiene products, and first-aid supplies are not as available in some places as they are here in the U.S. So I have come to really appreciate the value of having access to these important resources. 

I’ve been fortunate enough to call Seattle home my whole life. I am surrounded by a diverse community of people who come from various cultures, races, ethnicities, and religions. Currently, I’m attending the University of Washington Bothell where I’m studying Law, Economics, and Public Policy. Throughout my education, I have been taught by incredible educators who have played a key role in shaping my learning and have inspired me to cause positive change in the world. I can confidently say that if it weren’t for my family, community, and education, I wouldn’t have the same resources or passion for social justice that I have today. 

Growing up, my parents have always advocated for the issues that they believed in. From a young age, I was exposed to various forms of advocacy through volunteering, protesting, and fundraising. I remember once when I was eight-years old, I attended a demonstration advocating for Middle East peace with my parents. I enjoyed holding up signs and chanting with the crowd of people. I knew I was making a difference. I started asking to go to a protest every weekend! From then on, I began asking more questions, reading books, and attending events about world issues. With that, my passion for social justice and human rights started evolving, and I decided to pursue my entire education and career based on it.

I’m dedicated to finding ways to ensure that Seattle is an equitable city, and also to discovering ways to better serve and support immigrant and refugee communities in order to make their transition to the U.S. easier. 

When thinking about my career goals, I want to be in a position where I can lead organizations and projects aimed at better serving communities of color. I want to do this by specifically finding ways to make sure that immigrant and refugee communities are engaged and informed in all decision-making. My position here at OIRA has been teaching me a lot about the importance of ensuring that all levels of government are providing the necessary resources to communities in an accessible and equitable way. One key lesson I have learned so far is that creating spaces where people feel comfortable and safe is critical to progress a community. Prior to joining OIRA I didn’t know what it meant to cater to people’s needs. I would constantly hear about serving others. But OIRA has shown me the various ways in which we can be a resource. One thing I value a lot about our office, is how we facilitate various programs aimed at supporting immigrant and refugee communities in Seattle. Whether that’s through translating documents into numerous languages or hosting free citizenship clinics where people can receive assistance on filling out their citizenship application, OIRA is making it a point to be more accessible to people through focusing on small actions that are making a big difference.

I admire the work that our office does in creating an inclusive and welcoming space for all of Seattle’s residents. My hope is that through OIRA’s work, Seattle can become an example for what it means to be a place that welcomes all people. It shouldn’t matter what race, religion, or ethnicity you are, what should matter is that we are all human and that should be enough of a reason to welcome one another.

Beyond my excitement of work and school, I enjoy traveling. This year I was fortunate enough to visit Cappadocia, Turkey, which was absolutely incredible! Traveling has given me a greater appreciation for the world around me and has taught me to embrace the differences that all of us humans have to offer. I also love to attend concerts, community events, and explore different parts of Seattle. If you see me around, feel free to say hi, I’d love to chat!